Pennsylvania

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EPA to Send Water to Dimock Households

Susan Phillips / StateImpactPA

Actor Mark Ruffalo holds up a jug of water from one of the resident's well during a recent rally in Dimock.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will send clean water to residents of the Susquehanna County community where natural gas drilling has contaminated water supplies. About a dozen families in Dimock, Pa. have a lawsuit pending against Cabot Oil and Gas. The EPA says four of those families will receive fresh water deliveries. Three years ago, residents began to notice changes to their water, and were able to set their taps on fire. State regulators blamed Cabot for faulty well construction and ordered the company to supply clean water. But in November, 2011 the state Department of Environmental Protection gave Cabot the green light to halt water shipments.

Residents have since been relying on donations. Several weeks ago, regional EPA officials contacted residents to tell them the federal government would start supplying water. But then a day later, that decision was reversed. DEP chief Michael Krancer has criticized EPA’s role in Dimock, writing in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson that the EPA’s understanding of the issue was “rudimentary.”

Last week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told State Impact Pennsylvania that some federal laws prevent the Agency from providing relief. A press release issued today by EPA region 3 says they will begin their own testing of the well water for 60 Dimock households. In the meantime, EPA will supply fresh water to four families.

“EPA is working diligently to understand the situation in Dimock and address residents’ concerns,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “We believe that the information provided to us by the residents deserves further review, and conducting our own sampling will help us fill information gaps. Our actions will be based on the science and the law and we will work to help get a more complete picture of water quality for these homes in Dimock.”

EPA officials say it could take up to three weeks to complete testing on the wells, with results available in about 5 weeks.  Current data from four homes indicates the contamination poses health concerns. The EPA says data on the other wells do not show a need for fresh water deliveries, but the Agency says further testing is warranted.

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